NFL owners OK expansion of Rooney Rule; 'we're not satisfied where we are,' Goodell says

NFL owners OK expansion of Rooney Rule; 'we're not satisfied where we are,' Goodell says


PITTSBURGH - Nearly two decades after the Rooney Rule was adopted by the National Football League to create more high-level coaching opportunities for minority candidates, 32 league owners have agreed it's time to strengthen it and do a better job of developing coaches for top positions. One of those owners is the son of the man for whom the rule is named.

"We felt like when the Rooney Rule first passed, we did achieve some changes and we did see an increase in minority hiring for a period of time," said Steelers president Art Rooney II, whose late father, Dan, came up with the initial plan in 2003. "It's hard to explain why that's changed over the last few years."

To ensure better advancement for minority candidates to become head coaches and coordinators, the NFL adopted a series of wide-sweeping reforms to the Rooney Rule on Tuesday that will also include increased off-the-field opportunities for general manager positions. In addition, other procedures in diversity and inclusion have been implemented by the owners to increase advancement across the league for minority and female candidates in front-office and senior-level positions.

Currently, there are four minority coaches, including the Steelers' Mike Tomlin, and two minority general managers in the league.

"We're not satisfied where we are," Commissioner Roger Goodell said on a conference call with members of the national media, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We know we should and can do better. There's no single solution to this. It's a matter of the number of initiatives that we think ultimately are going to lead to better results."

The enhancements to the Rooney Rule, approved during a virtual meeting of the league owners, will require teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching vacancies; at least one minority candidate for any of the three coordinator vacancies; and at least one external minority candidate for the senior football operations or general manager position.

In addition, all teams will be required to submit in writing an organizational reporting structure for the coaching staff, with job descriptions for any coach who is a coordinator or co-coordinator within that structure.

The owners tabled a proposal that would allow teams to improve their draft position based on hiring a minority candidate. The intent of the proposal was to create a "positive" incentive for hiring a minority candidate instead of creating a "negative" penalty that exists for those who don't. Goodell said just because the proposal was tabled doesn't mean the owners were against it.

"There's a great deal of support, but there are also suggestions, amendments and thoughts that we may want to talk to others and try to strengthen it and try to make sure that it does what we were originally intending, which was to reward teams and coaches for developing minority coaches," Goodell said. "It was a very positive reaction and one that will lead to additional initiatives that will be able to implement."

For the first time, the Rooney Rule will be expanded to also include a wide range of executive positions within an organization and the league office.

Clubs must now include minorities and/or female applicants in the interview processes for senior-level front-office positions such as club president and senior executives in communications, finance, human resources, legal, football operations, sales, marketing, sponsorship, information technology and security positions.

Also, the owners approved a resolution that will make it more difficult for clubs to block a coach from interviewing for a position with another team, allowing for increased mobility that could lead to better opportunities. The resolution will simply allow all coaches to interview for an upward position with another team, no matter what fancy or creative title they have with their current club.

"We have developed a number of impediments through contract language and titles and other ways that clubs, in their own interest, have tried to keep their coaches on their staff, which is an understandable aim," said Rooney, who is chairman of the league's workplace diversity committee that oversees the Rooney Rule. "But it did have an impact for reducing the level of mobility we'd like to see across the league for coaching positions."

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